De Regnis Duobus, dual civium, Novus Ordo Seclorum

WALLS OF SEPARATION, ANYONE?

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By David Beilstein

IN a previous blog entry I interacted with Lutheran Pastor Jordan Cooper’s article posted on his Just And Sinner blog concerning the Lutheran doctrine of the two kingdoms.

I tried to interact with Pastor Cooper’s points about the two kingdoms doctrine and some of Westminster Seminary California’s more prominent reformed theologians, advocating a two kingdoms theological paradigm. The Reverend Cooper seemed to accuse certain WSC theologians of advocating a 2k doctrine that was essentially (or mistakenly) the American version of separation of church and state, then the historical Lutheran 2k doctrine. I pointed out a couple things in my entry…

A). Reformed theologians express a two kingdoms doctrine taking from both Luther and Calvin, added to a Christologically centric idea of the spirituality of Christ’s Kingdom. So there are differences. B). I also tried to show that WSC theologians are not bound to an American notion of separation of church and state, but Sacred Scripture read with historic reformed ideas about 2k doctrine, and interpreted through the confessions of reformed churches. It should also be understood, WSC 2k theologians are trying to modify those elements of Luther and Calvin’s actions within a theocratic context, which upon reflection contradict 2k doctrine.

It would be a mistake, however, to assume WSC theologians equate the two kingdoms doctrine along the same lines as American conceptions of ‘a separation of church and state.’ I have never heard any of these theologians make that case contrary to Pastor Cooper’s article. No matter. Since we are on that topic, however, one would be an idiot not to make some points. We need to come to some kind of understanding of what exactly the separation of church and state is in America – what does it mean, and what does it not mean?

In the aggregate it is useful to understand that the separation of church and state widely held to in modern American political parlance is not an accurate reflection of the Founding Father’s beliefs, nor the U.S. Constitution.

Secular proponents of the separation of church and state, more often than not, are progressive leftists, denouncing religion (particularly Christianity) in the public square; desirous to rid religious affections from public life. This was clearly not the Framer’s idea – not even Thomas Jefferson’s – whom is most infamous for coining the phrase ‘walls of separation’ between Church and state. More confusing still, traditionalist Republicans, social conservatives, have raised hell concerning any separation of church and state. Like the Jehovah Witness’ zealous plea that the word “Trinity” does not appear in Holy Scripture (thus, the doctrine of the Trinity is false they say) so is the clamor from Republican/social conservatives that the phrase ‘separation of church and state’ does not appear in the U.S. Constitution.

Hm.

Both the Jehovah Witness and the social conservative, GOP traditionalist, are correct. Technically. But the concept of the Trinity in Holy Scripture, and a separation between church and state in the U.S. Constitution, is inherent in the textual data.  In an effort to crush the progressive lefts anti-Christian over realised idea of a separation of church and state, social conservatives have over-steered and overreacted, demanding there is no such separation. In other words, within the Democratic Party and Republican Party (particular the political base of these two parties) there is no true constitutional idea of wall of separation between church and state, or the understanding shared by the Founding Fathers on such matters.

The Founder’s idea of Federal and local governments not having the right – or responsibility – to lord over ecclesiastical matters, administer the sacraments of Christ’s Church (Lord’s Supper, Baptism) or determine how the law-gospel, or other religious dogma norms is determined, is a separation of church and state. And a wise one!

Culturally, many of the things the church of Christ – be it Lutheran, Presbyterian, or non-denominational – is commanded by Sacred Scripture to profess and practise is unpopular; striving mightily against many convictions held by those in civil government (and elsewhere) and a hard counter to much political correctness.

Does the Church – either Catholic or Protestant – really want the Obama administration, or any political administration, determining ecclesiastical matters? Contrary to the progressive left’s ideas, the separation of church and state is a protection (whether intended or not) of Christ’s Church.

Sadly, the progressive left has been able to define an unconstitutional idea of separation of church and state making it the default position of American consciousness; a result of social conservatives having not defended a properly defined constitutional version of walls of separation. Social conservatives have been their very own armoury of progressivism in matters of religion and politics as one – a decoction of the early 20th century progressive movement where the kingdom of God and America were one. That coupling of the Kingdom of God and American society by the early progressive movement did not improve American society. It produced a less free society and one where severe market dislocations expanded because of governmental intrusion and mismanagement of national resources. The more government does, the less resources the individual has to better himself and those around him. The atrophy of such freedom and purpose creates larger scale dependency. Dependency, likewise, is the soil upon which cultural decay germinates.

And so, there is little difference between American evangelicals and their understanding of politics and religion, and the founders of the progressive movement; a movement decidedly unconstitutional, empowering more and more statist government. The Founding Fathers produced a contract establishing a government upon the premise of liberalism (in the classical sense) not a religious state, which cannot be a free society, as only God is lord over the conscious.

A religious state, politically speaking, seeks the property of God for itself.

Therefore, the walls of separation envisioned by the Founders were an attempt to confine government to modest parameters – that of life and property and general, external duties. The Founder’s knew, once government crept outside its parameters, be it religiously motivated, or otherwise – even from the font of good intentions – either authoritarian or tyrannical powers would be enforced on the people destroying the orderly structure of the American civitas. It did not require the Founders to peek-a-boo through history very far to realise when the state became the tool of religion or vice versa – both “realms” lost their original purpose and intent – corrupted by men driven by imperfection of character and morals.

If men can and do become beasts; the limitation of government in all areas is a virtue.

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